A brief sequence of events that took place in the 13 years and 10 months since the night of March 24-25, 2000, when five villagers were killed in Pathribal, and dubbed as “foreign militants” responsible for the massacre of 36 Sikhs in Chittisinghpora five days earlier.
March 25: On a visit to Chittisinghpora, then home minister L K Advani was told by local police and Army officers that the five LeT mercenaries responsible for the massacre had been eliminated in a “surgical operation” by the police and 7 Rashtriya Rifles the previous night. Col Ajay Saxena and DSP Tajinder Singh explained the “operation” using a detailed map. Area residents, however, said five men had gone missing from nearby villages of Brariangan, Halan and Anantnag, and alleged they were killed in a fake encounter.
April 3: Police fired at protesters marching towards the deputy commissioner’s office. Nine were killed, 35 injured; among them relatives of the missing men. Under pressure, the Farooq Abdullah government subsequently suspended Anantnag SSP Farooq Khan and an SHO, and ordered that the bodies of the five men be exhumed and DNA tested to ascertain their identities.
April 6: A forensic team from the Government Medical College, Srinagar, led by Dr Balbir Kaur exhumed the bodies and sent the samples to the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics in Hyderabad and Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Kolkata.
October 27: Justice S R Pandian Commission — set up to inquire into the Barakpora firing in which nine protesters were killed — indicted police and CRPF for murder, and said the “direct root causes” of the protests were linked to the Pathribal killings. Around the same time, the Anantnag police exonerated Wagay alias Chatti Guru, a milkman from Chittisinghpora, whom the then union home secretary Kamal Pande had described as the main link between the Chittisinghpora massacre and the Pathribal encounter.
February 26: The Hyderabad lab wrote to the police, saying that samples supposed to be of a female relative of one of the victims were actually from a male, and another sample supposed to be from a female relative was in fact the blood of two men. The contents of the report were concealed for a year.
April 9: DC, Anantnag, quoting a report by the police’s Special Investigation Team, admitted that the five men were innocent and ordered Rs 1 lakh ex gratia for each.
March 8: Then CM Farooq Abdullah told the state assembly that officials had tampered with the DNA samples.
March 14: NHRC issued notice to the J&K government on the alleged tampering, and sought an “up to date report of the action taken in this matter”. The next day, Farooq ordered an inquiry headed by retired high court judge G A Kuchai. Dr Balbir Kaur and five others were suspended.
July 16: The state government made the CFSL, Kolkata, report public. Its conclusion: “It has been established that the deceased were not foreign terrorists as claimed by the forces who led the operations, but they were innocent civilians.”
December 12: Kuchai Commission indicted the forensic team and police for fudging samples. The government suspended police officers, but subsequently reinstated them.
February: CBI registered a case, accusing five 7 Rashtriya Rifles personnel — Ajay Saxena, Brijendra Pratap Singh, Sourabh Sharma, Amit Saxena and Idrees Khan — of abduction, murder, criminal conspiracy and evidence destruction.
CBI filed a chargesheet in the CJM’s court in Srinagar. Before trial could begin, the Army objected, arguing that prior sanction was needed to prosecute Army officials. The magistrate turned it down. The Army appealed in the additional sessions court and high court, and lost every time. It then moved a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the high court decision.
May 1: Apex court gave Army discretion to choose between a court martial and criminal trial.
June 29: The Army chose court martial.
September 13: Court martial proceedings were initiated at Jammu.